The Cheetahs' tour got off to a poor start when they lost 35-14 to the Rebels in Melbourne, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
Adriaan Strauss's men made history last weekend by beating the Bulls for the first time in Vodacom Super Rugby and they did so again on Friday when they suffered their first-ever defeat to the Rebels. The hosts had won all three of their pre-season matches and carried that impressive form (goal-kicking aside) into their opening match of the tournament.
The Cheetahs' error-ridden start to the game set the tone. They attacked from the kick-off only for Francois Venter to knock on inside the Rebels' 22, and then they conceded a turnover 10m inside their half that resulted in Lachlan Mitchell's unconverted try.
Raymond Rhule lost the ball forward after another promising Cheetahs' attack, and the Rebels' subsequent surge saw them awarded a penalty. Fortunately for the visitors, Jason Woodward botched the easy attempt at goal.
Johan Goosen was also off the mark with his first penalty attempt, before the Rebels were awarded another kickable penalty. But they opted for a quick tap, and Scott Higginbotham's perfectly-executed cross-kick was collected in the in-goal area by Woodward. The Rebels almost scored another try in similar fashion, but Mitchell's kick bounced on the touchline and Woodward was also in touch before grounding the ball.
Goosen's second penalty attempt also went wide, and the Cheetahs found themselves 17-0 down when Luke Burgess darted over for a converted try just before the break.
The visitors hit back early in the second half when Jean Cook went over from a lineout driving maul and Goosen nailed the touchline conversion.
In the 52nd minute, Scott Fuglistaller was yellow-carded for lashing out at Cook for holding on to him at a scrum, but the Cheetahs couldn't add to their tally while he was off, and conceded their fourth try when Tamati Ellison broke into the 22 and put Bryce Hegarty away.
Ryno Barnes was driven over for the Cheetahs' second converted try with 10 minutes to go, but they never looked like pulling the game out of the fire.
Angus Roberts missed yet another penalty for the Rebels, but then kicked a drop goal and a penalty, before Higginbotham scored his side's fifth try in the last play of the game.
Rebels – Tries: Lachlan Mitchell, Jason Woodward, Luke Burgess, Bryce Hegarty, Scott Higginbotham. Conversions: Hegarty (2). Penalty: Angus Roberts. Drop goal: Roberts.
Cheetahs – Tries: Jean Cook, Ryno Barnes. Conversions: Johan Goosen (2).
Rebels – 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 16 Steve Fualau, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Colby Fainga'a, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Angus Roberts, 23 Tom Kingston.
Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Johannes Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Nicolaas van Dyk, 19 Rynard Landman, 20 Jean Cook, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Hennie Daniller.
Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images